Emanuel Steward: “I don’t know who would win, but I think that Sergio would make Floyd fight out of his comfort zone”

by Geoffrey Ciani (Exclusive Interview by Jenna J & Geoffrey Ciani) - Last week’s 145th edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio (brought to you by CWH Promotions) featured an exclusive interview with Hall of Fame boxing trainer Emanuel Steward, who recently helped guide middleweight contender Andy Lee (27-1, 19 KOs) to avenge his only career loss with a lopsided unanimous decision victory against Brian Vera (19-6, 12 KOs). In addition to discussing Lee’s victory and his future, Steward also shared his views on a variety of other topics, including Sergio Martinez’s stoppage win against Darren Barker, a potential match-up between Martinez and Floyd Mayweather Junior, Wladimir Klitschko’s upcoming fight with Jean Marc Mormeck, Joe Calzaghe, Miguel Cotto, Bernard Hopkins, and more! Here are some question and answer excerpts from that interview:

JENNA J: Do you think after viewing Andy Lee's performance, that he could have done anything better at all?

EMANUEL STEWARD: Well in rating him, I’d rate him about a 7.5 or an 8 in the fight. I thought he did what was necessary to win. It was not a super devastating performance, because in this fight here the main thing was to fight a technical fight, and that was to outbox him and keep him off-balance with the little right jab over the shoulder because Vera has very bad balance. So every time he started to come forward, Andy would hit him with that right cross type jab to make him fall off balance and then he would try to time him and catch him with straight lefts when he was coming in. That was the strategy. I would liked to have seen him open up and maybe knock him out, but it was a big risk because Vera has a good chin and he’s the type of guy that unless you see he’s really hurt, we learned from the first fight you just have to systematically beat him and if you hurt him you could also knock him out but don’t get too excited, because he falls off balance a lot and you may think he’s hurt and that’s because he has terrible balance. In fact, after the fight we were at the airport and we were saying that the biggest thing we took advantage of was his terrible balance. We kept him off balance all night. So it worked good, and next we try to move on to another fight, but I was glad that fight went that way and that Andy didn’t get hit a lot like he did in the fight with McEwan.

JENNA: Emanuel something that you’re very good at as a trainer is when your fighter has a revenge bout, or a rematch with someone that beat them, they usually always win under you. So what’s that like for you?

STEWARD: Well it’s always pleasant to me. (laughs) I was a very, very competitive guy and to lose is painful, but as Lennox used to say the worst thing in life is when you make the same mistake twice. I usually analyze the fights and after I look at them I can pretty much see what were the strong points and weak points of both fighters. That’s a gift that I have and it’s not something that I think everybody could learn. In the fight with Vera I saw that Vera was physically a pretty strong guy, and even though he may have lost a lot of fights he takes a good punch. Also he’s the type of guy if you get involved in exchanges with him, when he punches he lunges and pushes his weight forward when he’s slugging with you so he really gets a lot of force. So the main thing is to keep him off-balance and not worry about combinations. Just throw one single punch at a time, because if you hit him with punches and you stay there throwing two or three, you’ll get caught with a shot maybe around the side of the head or somewhere where you never even saw it coming. But for this fight Andy kept his left hand in a good position where he was able to catch the roundhouse rights as well as the straight rights. The other fights I had, like Holyfield and Bowe when I worked with Holyfield for the second fight with Riddick Bowe, I realized that Bowe was bigger, had better physical strength, and better boxing ability believe it or not, and better inside fighting, and youth, and size! But the thing that he was weak in was his footwork was not as good as Evander’s. So we had Evander work on winning the fight by moving, changing directions, punching in spots, moving, changing, and so it worked in after twelve rounds we were fortunate and had the championship again. Every fight is different and you have to be very detailed, because when you’re on the top level in boxing every little small detail can make a major difference.

JENNA: Okay Emanuel, well besides working as a trainer last Saturday night you pulled double duty and you were also an announcer for HBO. You called the Sergio Martinez versus Darren Barker fight. Now that you’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on it, what did you think?

STEWARD: Well Sergio is a champion. He knows how to win fights. I was very impressed with the fact that he was having difficulty in the fight, and you could see it in his face because the style of Barker was very hard to fight. You’re throwing a million punches. He doesn’t throw that many punches. So you tire much faster than him because you’re punching so much. Then he keeps his hands up and when you least expect it his little hands come out with little short punches. It’s not like he’s punching often where you can prepare and get into a rhythm of slipping punches and punching back. Sergio just outworked him. Then the last punch that he knocked him down with, I personally didn’t see it as being that hard. You know, you can’t tell what damage another person is experiencing. It could have been an accumulation of anything, but in my mind I had a real problem accepting that it was that kind of powerful punch that he would go down like that. It seemed like a lot of the guys from Europe, they come here and they have a participate type attitude. He did good, and so and so, and the crowd was loving it and giving him a lot of praise. But it’s just the mental makeup sometimes with these guys. I think that if he had fought over here before he might have been more comfortable. A lot of these aren’t that comfortable with the situation when they’ve never been here and fought in America. But I thought Barker did show the weaknesses of Martinez more than anyone, maybe. That was mainly to get close to him and throw little short straight punches, which was effective because of the low hand position of Martinez and Martinez is always waiting for you to punch where he can make his little counter move. But Martinez did what he had to do. When he saw that he was having problems he just outworked his opponent, and he was able to score a knockout from a right cross type jab.

JENNA: Alright Emanuel, now with both Andy Lee and Sergio Martinez coming through their fights a lot of people suggested that those two should meet in the ring. Andy is considered the number one middleweight contender out there. In your opinion, do you think that fight should be next for your fighter?

STEWARD: Well I feel very good about it. He’s had nearly 30 fights, and I think it’s a fight he should get but if he doesn’t I don’t worry about it too much, because he is probably the number one premiere challenge. What I know realistically is the promoter for Martinez and Andy is Lou DiBella, and Lou is really trying to get a big money fight for Martinez and I think that’s something that he deserves still. He’s been battling here for quite a few years and has fought a lot of good fights, and I myself would like to see him get a big fight first before he fights Andy or any of those type guys. I don’t know, Mayweather or someone. But it seems like he’s not willing, which I understand, to move up to super middleweight. Really he’s nothing but a junior middleweight still right now. So he’s caught in a real bad position. Andy and him will I think eventually fight if they both keep on the course where they are, but if he doesn’t him next it doesn’t bother me too much because Andy can still have two or three fights in between if he wanted to. He’s still learning and developing, but he is a better fighter than he showed in that fight but that was a fight that he had to fight very technical.

GEOFFREY CIANI: We haven’t had you on the show since Floyd Mayweather Junior scored a legal but somewhat controversial knockout victory against Victor Ortiz that I know had a lot of the fans upset. I was wondering if you could give us your views (A) on Floyd’s performance that night and (B) on the somewhat rather unusual way the fight ended?

STEWARDL Well first of all I thought Floyd fought a good fight. He came out in the beginning as I expected, and if you would remember the things on the television screen with Emanuel’s strategy or whatever I expected the fight to be like, it was that Floyd would come out and force Ortiz to get into a technical type fight because Floyd’s right hand was really very effective. That’s one of his best punches anyway. It’s not his knockout punch, but short right hand leads and he shoots them very fast, which is the proper way to shoot them when you’re fighting a southpaw. It’s not so much power, but his speed and shooting them from your right with hand tucked right under your chin. He was doing it perfect, and Ortiz really got into a mode of trying to figure out how to get away from those short right hands. Then after about two or three rounds, his corner realized he was losing that chess game type of fight and Floyd was just too fast and too accurate. He came out and started to step the pace up, and in stepping it up Floyd hit him with a lot of punches, I remember this one time. Then he crowded Floyd and got Floyd in an uncomfortable situation, and Floyd did one of his type moves bending back in a defensive situation where he had his head out of range and was using his shoulders. Ortiz, in total frustration, actually tried to leap up and butt him because his head was so far out of range.

Then the referee takes a point, and Ortiz didn’t realize it, but he had gotten carried away with his emotions, and he apologized, and he apologized and apologized. Floyd was very upset with having been butted purposefully and I think he busted his mouth pretty bad, and in his anger he went in there and retaliated. So he hit him with one punch. The referee, Joe Cortez, was looking away over at the time keeper or whatever. So he realized that he had been hit with a punch and then he starts complaining Ortiz, the referee is looking somewhere else, and Floyd who is extremely sharp and thinks very well under all conditions realized it and so he cracks him again! It wasn’t a combination. It was two separate good punches. Then after he goes down, the referee turns around and starts the count. Then I looked at Ortiz’s expression afterwards when Jim Lampley was asking me to basically complain about the whole situation, and I’m looking at Ortiz and he seemed to be very happy in the ring about everything. So I mean I didn’t know what to say. You know. It was a series of incidents that happened all in a row, and then and Larry and Floyd. So the whole fight was basically that last two or three minutes I guess with all those different things that happened. But I think the fight was really getting ready to warm up and be a good fight. I think that Ortiz at that time realized he was being systematically picked apart, and he decided to step on the gas even at the risk of being hit, and he was being hit, and the fight was getting ready to be an exciting fight if they fought on. So I was very disappointed with the way it happened, but I understand everyone in the situation.

CIANI: One of the things that’s going around the boxing message boards, and this is probably not even really rumors but more speculation amongst fans. There is some word that maybe Floyd and Sergio Martinez might fight next at say 154. Whether or not the fight actually happens, if Floyd and Sergio were to agree at 154, what kind of fight do you see happening for the fans?

STEWARD: I think it would be a very good technical fight. I think Floyd’s accuracy with his right hand and his all around ring generalship would present a problem. Sergio seems to be such a big, big guy, but he really is nothing more than a good 154/55 pounder. Floyd has become physically much stronger as he’s gotten older. I was very impressed with the last couple of fights he’s had with Mosley and with Ortiz. Physically he looks very strong and very steady, and I think his accuracy, in particular in the last fight with Martinez which showed him to be very vulnerable to punches, especially short punches. It would be a very exciting fight! I don’t know who would win, but I think that Sergio would make Floyd fight out of his comfort zone. He’d have to pick it up a little more than he has been able to do, because Floyd’s skills have enabled him to fight in a style that he likes. I think Sergio’s high energy and emotions would make Floyd have to fight a little bit faster and throw more punches than he normally would, and as a result we’d have a very exciting fight!

CIANI: Now Emanuel, news recently came out just this week that you will not be training Miguel Cotto for his upcoming rematch in December against Antonio Margarito, and I was wondering if you could tell the fans what happened?

STEWARD: Well we basically agreed to everything in terms, and I was supposed to start I believe on Saturday at the training camp. Then Sunday I got home, I got a text, and they said they decided to move on without me. That was basically it so I said, “Fine and good luck”. There was never an argument over too much of anything. Maybe they wanted me to be there a week or so earlier, and I said, “No, I can’t do that. Andy Lee has a big fight here!” That was the only thing, but we never had any arguments. We agreed to money and terms and everything, but for some reason they decided to do different. I just said basically, “Good luck! I’ll see you all at the broadcast”. And that was it.

CIANI: Now do you think that you will be working with Miguel some time again in the future?

STEWARD: No. This is the fight he needs the most anyway, but no. We’ll just remain friends, but I think a lot of the problem was that everybody wanted me to just drop everything with Andy Lee, because they naturally figured that’s not an important fight. But I had to stay with this man all the way through. That was one of the things. I said, “No, I have to stay here. I have a major training camp with this man”. So that was one of the issues. It never was any problem that came up with Klitschko or anything. Everything was in order with Andy, and then next was Miguel. Those were the two priorities. After that we talked and agreed, and I said we’d finish up when I get home on Sunday because I have to keep my mind and focus on this fight here. They said okay fine, we’ll talk Monday or something. Then I got two texts where they said they decided to move on and do otherwise. I didn’t even ask them any questions. I said, “Okay, fine. Thank you and good luck”.

CIANI: With the Bernard Hopkins fight coming up, one of the things I wanted to ask you for awhile is a lot of fans out there seem to suggest that every time Bernard Hopkins does another thing to add to his legacy that Joe Calzaghe’s legacy benefits from everything good that Bernard does. From your perspective, is that a fair analysis from some of the fans that think that?

STEWARD: You know it’s funny. I never even thought about that. I know Joe Calzaghe had a great night and he did get the decision and won over Bernard, but I think Bernard’s legacy is strong enough by itself to not just hinge on one performance. But I never hear that from fans, maybe because you’re more in tune with then I am. I thought Joe Calzaghe was a fantastic fighter, but I just don’t see that particular victory over Bernard working itself into the great accomplishments that Bernard has had over such a long period of time. It’s like a guy comes in overnight and has great success, which he did have with Lacy and Bernard and Roy Jones. But nevertheless, I don’t think it has that much affect.

JENNA: Well let’s take things back to one of your fighters and that would be Wladimir Klitschko. He has a fight coming up on December 10 against Jean Marc Mormeck. A lot of fans aren’t particularly happy with this matchup. They are suggesting that Wladimir is fighting the leftovers of David Haye. From your view, how do you see this match if it does happen?

STEWARD: Well it’s kind of a frustrating match because what the fans’ perception is, is what most of the general public’s is. It’s a hard sale fight. I think in Wladimir’s attitude when I spoke to him last night was, “All heavyweight champions have to go through this sometimes. I mean you told me that Joe Louis had to go through this once. He had the ‘Bum of the Month’ club, and just to stay busy I want a fight before the end of the year. We have offered a lot of fighters”. And he was going through Helenius, and Arreola, and nobody wants the fight. He said, “Just to finish up the year I’m going to have to fight someone. I’m very frustrated because we made some offers”. He said, “You suggested possibly Antonio Tarver, and I would love try to fight him as soon as next year comes if we can’t get anyone else”. But this fight is mainly a fight out of frustration and desperation to stay busy until the end of the year, and I guess it’s all that he could get that was a marquee name that would accept the fight.”

JENNA: Speaking of staying busy, we had Andy Lee on earlier in the show and he said that he was looking for a December date, that he wants to get in one more fight this year. Do you want him to have that fight?

STEWARD: Yes, Andy is from the old school. He likes to stay busy. He’ll probably have two weeks just to maybe go and see some of his friends, and he’s got some nieces and nephews in North Carolina. After that, he’ll back at the house here wanting to go back to the gym to start training. He loves to train and he loves to fight. He said, “What do I want to do? Wait around until March or something until maybe a fight comes up?” He wants to stay busy, and I would also like him to have a fight also in late December.


For those interested in listening to the Emanuel Steward interview in its entirety, it begins approximately forty-five minutes into the program.



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Article posted on 12.10.2011

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